January 16, 2015
The oil and gas industry has been rapidly expanding since the introduction of hydraulic fracturing – or fracking. The increased use of fracking has created hazardous living conditions for communities around the drilling sites. Fracking poses a threat to the health of humanity and the environment and should not be used as a way to retrieve resources. Hydrofracking is the injection of fluids – water mixed with sand and other chemicals – into a previously drilled well in order to open the shale and release the resources (Prud’homme 25). Fracking has become a popular method of resource retrieval because it is able to release the gas and oil from hard to reach reserves. It is easy and quick to extract the resources. According to the Energy Information Administration, the shale gas fields in America contain enough natural gas to provide power for the entire country for 110 years (Hillstrom 68). The promise of ensured energy is an attractive incentive for the use of fracking, but what expense do we have to pay to get this energy?
The fracking fluid is mostly comprised of water and sand, but chemicals need to be used to fracture the rock properly. The chemicals used in fracking sometimes only account for one percent of the fluid, but the total amount of chemicals used can be as high as millions of gallons per well (Prud’homme 84). Some companies choose not to disclose all the chemicals used to create the fluid, but many of the known chemicals are harmful to human health, some being carcinogenic. Formic acid, trimethyl ammonium chloride, and benzene are all examples of harmful chemicals that are commonly used in fracking. If all the chemicals being used were to be disclosed to the public then scientists would know what to monitor and regulations could be put into place to ensure a safer drilling, but unfortunately companies are not willing to offer a list of every chemical out of fear that competitors would steal their recipe. The competitive nature of the oil and gas industry could be slowly killing people who are exposed to the chemicals that are used in the process (Thompson 68).
Water is the main component of the fracking fluid, accounting for up to ninety-nine percent of the fluid when combined with sand. On average, one well can use up to five million gallons of water over its time being in use – some wells in Texas have used up to thirteen million gallons (Prud’homme 73). This water is drawn from groundwater supplies around the fracking site and is taken faster than it is able to replenish itself with precipitation. This poses a threat to water supplies, especially in dry areas like Texas and California. Looking at the big picture, the water supply in states that use fracking is not substantially lowered, but the small communities are at risk (Hillstrom 63). The people who live near the fracking sites lose their water supply, whether by pollution or having it taken to be used to complete the fracks. Companies that want to use water for energy have had disagreements with others who also want to use the water for their own use. Farmers, ranchers, and homeowners are among the water users that have been caught in competition for water (“Unchecked Fracking Threatens Health, Water Supplies” 1). The substantial amount of water being used in fracking turns into wastewater providing yet another problem and concern to be dealt with.
The wastewater created from fracking has caused contamination to drinking water for people who live near the fracking sites. Wastewater can be disposed into manmade ponds that specifically hold the chemical contaminated water, injected underground, or some water is treated to remove the harmful chemicals and put back into rivers (Hillstrom 52). Some of the manmade ponds are not as safe as they are thought to be. Accidents happen and leaks occur, causing contamination to other river systems. Animals and fish that rely on the rivers for a